Foundation for Islam in France officially launched

It’s official: the Foundation for Islam in France has been launched. The secular foundation, meant to serve as a “public utility,” is one of the pillars of the new Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve’s plan for the future of Islam in France.

The current Foundation replaces the Foundation for Islamic Works, launched by former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, which never truly functioned due to internal squabbles among the country’s Muslim federations. The new foundation received an initial donation of one million euros.

It serves to finance educational and cultural projects, including university diplomas for imams on French secularism (a project supported by 14 French universities), research in Islamic theology, and youth programs.

On December 12, during the first meeting organized by the Interior Ministry, workshops will be held during which those with relevant project ideas can present. If chosen, their project may be eligible for funding.

Anouar Kbibech, President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, stated: “This foundation is important because it will permit financing for cultural activities backed by mosques.”

Closure of the controversial King-Fahd-Academy in Bonn: Shifting Saudi religious politics in Germany

Past controversies

Saudi diplomats in Germany have confirmed that the King-Fahd-Academy, a Saudi-financed educational institution in Bonn, will be closed by the end of the school year 2016/2017. The construction of a second academy in Berlin will reportedly also be abandoned.(( http://www.dw.com/en/controversial-saudi-school-in-bonn-to-close/a-19511109 ))

The King-Fahd Academy, opened in 1994, had long been criticised as a hotbed of Islamist radicalism. In the early 2000s, the school came under suspicion for alleged ties to Al-Qaeda. In a Friday sermon at the school mosque, a former teacher encouraged pupils to wage holy war and die in the name of God. At the same time, the Wahhabi-inspired curriculum sought to impart to students a strongly anti-Jewish and anti-Western outlook.(( http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/media/islamistenschule100.html ))

After attempts to have the school closed did not come to fruition, local authorities used their administrative prerogatives and no longer granted children with German citizenship the permission to attend the school. As a consequence, the King-Fahd-Academy, an vast building complex, today only provides schooling to about 150 pupils.(( http://www.general-anzeiger-bonn.de/bonn/bad-godesberg/Godesberger-Schule-schlie%C3%9Ft-zum-Schuljahresende-article3344239.html ))

A shift in the Saudi approach?

Over the past decade, the King-Fahd Academy had striven to dissociate itself from the extremist image of the early 2000s. German language classes became obligatory, curricula were altered, and the school sought to open itself to the outside academically (by adopting the standards of the International Baccalaureate programme) as well as socially (by hosting open houses and a range of cultural activities).(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/umstrittene-saudische-fahd-akademie-in-bonn-schliesst-14411622-p3.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_3 ))

Yet the school never quite managed to leave its past behind. Henner Fürtig of the German Institute for Global Area Studies (GIGA) thus sees the closure of the school as indicative of a Saudi attempt to ameliorate the Kingdom’s image in Europe: closing the King-Fahd-Academy could enable the Saudi rulers to leave behind one of the most painful controversies of the past few years.(( http://www.dw.com/de/saudi-arabien-strebt-imagewechsel-an/a-19511727 ))

Saudi sources describe the abandonment of the old educational agenda as a consequence of a shifting political approach in Riyadh. Allegedly, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman himself decreed the closure of the King-Fahd-Academy.(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/islam-in-deutschland-saudi-arabien-gibt-koenig-fahd-akademien-auf/14464982.html )) The ambitious crown prince recently promulgated his ‘Vision 2030’, seeking to modernise Saudi society, infrastructure, industry, and education. According to Saudi diplomats, instead of remaining in a Saudi bubble, Saudi students ought to be taught in German schools in order to benefit from “one of the world’s best educational systems”.(( https://beta.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article157887884/Der-saudische-Rueckzug-sollte-Schule-machen.html?wtrid=crossdevice.welt.desktop.vwo.google-referrer.home-spliturl&betaredirect=true ))

Reactions of relief

German politicians have generally reacted with relief to these announcements. While complimenting the school’s opening since the early 2000s, Bonn’s mayor Ashok Sridharan nevertheless welcomed the Academy’s closure. (( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/umstrittene-saudische-fahd-akademie-in-bonn-schliesst-14411622-p3.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_3 ))

The Saudi decision to shut down this one-time signature educational institution, does indeed come at a particular political moment. Over the past few months there had been renewed criticism of Saudi practices of religious financing abroad, with for instance Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) accusing Saudi Arabia openly of financing Islamic extremism in the West.(( http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/01/14/german-vice-chancellor-accuses-saudi-arabia-of-funding-islamic-extremism-in-the-west/ ))

More generally, as Euro-Islam reported, winning over the ‘hearts and minds’ of Germany’s growing Muslim minority has been a persistent theme in recent political debates.(( http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/08/26/amidst-political-controversy-german-ditib-association-vows-greater-emancipation-turkish-state/ )) The role of Turkey and of Saudi Arabia has come under particular scrutiny in this regard. Politicians of all parties have voiced fears of foreign financing and control that could turn German Muslims into a Trojan horse destabilising the country from within. The closure of the King-Fahd-Academy will be welcome news to them.

French Muslim intellectuals critique current organization of Islam in France

“Following the killings of cartoonists, after the murders of young people listening to music, after the assassination of a police couple, after the murders of children, women, and men assisting at the celebration of the fete nationale, and today the murder of a priest conducting mass…There is horror, still more horror and a clear commitment to pit Frenchmen against one another. To destroy the national harmony which still stands. We Muslims were silent because we learned that in France religion is a private affair. We must now speak out because Islam has become a public affair and the current situation can no longer be tolerated.

As Muslims, of faith or culture, we are concerned by the powerlessness of the current Muslim organization of France, which has no control over events. Despite the efforts of those engaged, French Islam is badly managed by the representatives of countries where many French Muslims originate. This organization likely made sense when Muslims were immigrants. Today, the Muslims of France are 75% French. The majority is young, very young. Many among them are the prey not only of ideologues of radical Islam but also of political Islam. The traditional representatives no longer understand simply because they no longer know them.

So, it is necessary to change generations, with a clearly organized project: provide sustainable sources of financing and ensure transparent and open mosques, train and employ imams, engage in historical, anthropological, and theological endeavors which allow and will allow more people to be French and Muslim in the secular Republic. And finally, to lead the cultural battle against radical Islamism which concerns younger and younger youths, with the most modern means and techniques drawing on the most effective ideas and information. We must act as Muslims.

But also as Frenchmen. We must respond to French society’s questions, which ask us: ‘But who are you? What are you doing?’

Certainly this question is paradoxical: we have learned to make religion a private affair. Then why speak as Muslims? Because the risk of fracture becomes more pressing every day. So, before it is too late, before violence pits one against the other—this is Daech’s objective—we must act and assume responsibility. And we must move beyond the paradox: ‘Rid yourselves of difference; condemn because you are different.’ Through hard work and self-denial but also because the Republic has done its work, we have, as other citizens have as well, taken our place in French society. And today, this generation is ready to assume its responsibilities, notably the organization of French Islam.

A Foundation for French Islam was created more than ten years ago. It never functioned. It is time to reactivate it, to give it the ability to collect resources. The French of Muslim faith are ready to re-launch it, to give it life, to contribute to its financing. This foundation, at the national level as well as the regional level, could be the institution that will allow for the organization of French Islam. Beyond that, it is a pursuit of perspective, of social and cultural action, which we are ready to harness.

As Frenchmen, as well as Muslims. Because France needs it.”

The signatories: Kaci Ait Yala, chef d’entreprise ; Najoua El Atfani, cadre entreprise BTP, administratice club XXIe siècle ; Rahmene Azzouzi, chef du service urologie, CHU d’Angers ; Linda Belaidi, dirigeante EASI (European Agency for Strategic Intelligence) ; Tayeb Belmihoub, auteur, comédien ; Sadek Beloucif, chef du service anesthésie réanimation, hôpital Avicenne, ex-membre du Comité national d’éthique ; Amine Benyamina, professeur de psychiatrie et d’addictologie ; Nadia Bey, journaliste ; Abdennour Bidar, philosophe, inspecteur général de l’éducation nationale ; Antar Boudiaf ; Hamou Bouakkaz, conseiller d’arrondissement, ancien adjoint au maire de Paris ; Marc Chebsun, auteur, éditorialiste ; Abdelnor Chehlaoui, banquier d’affaires ; Fatiha Gas, directrice d’un établissement d’enseignement supérieur ; Mohamed Ghannem, chef du service cardiologie, Fondation Léopold-Bellan ; M’jid El Guerrab, ancien conseiller du président du Sénat ; Kamel Haddar, entrepreneur (éducation et média) ; Abderrahim Hafidi, universitaire, islamologue ; Sofiène Haj Taieb, DG Finances, fonds d’investissement ; Khalid Hamdani, chef d’entreprise, membre du Cese ; Majid Si Hocine, médecin ; Mehdi Houas, président Talan (conseil informatique), ancien ministre ; Elyès Jouini, professeur d’université, vice-président d’université, ancien ministre ; Hakim El Karoui, ancien conseiller du Premier ministre, chef d’entreprise ; Bariza Khiari, sénatrice de Paris ; Saadallah Khiari, cinéaste, auteur ; Shiraz Latiri, cadre, société d’assurance ; Kamel Maouche, avocat au barreau de Paris ; Kaouthar Mehrez, ingénieur ; Malika Menner, directeur des Relations externes d’un grand groupe télécom ; Louisa Mezreb, PDG Facem management ; Naima M’Faddel, adjointe au maire de Dreux, chargée de l’action sociale ; Pap’Amadou Ngom, PDG Des systèmes et des hommes ; Bouchra Rejani, directrice générale d’une société de production audiovisuelle ; Mahamadou Lamine Sagna, sociologue, chercheur à Paris-VII ; Nadir Saïfi, juriste ; Yasmine Seghirate, responsable de la communication pour une organisation internationale ; Mohsen Souissi, ingénieur ; François-Aïssa Touazi, fondateur CAPmena, ancien conseiller du ministère des Affaires étrangères ; Farid Yaker, président forum France Algérie ; Faiez Zannad, professeur de thérapeutique-­cardiologie, CHU Nancy, université de Lorraine.

Nathalie Goulet discusses foreign financing and recent Senate report (pdf)

Following the recent attacks on French soil several politicians have proposed measures to reform Islam’s structure and the financing of Islam in France. For Nathalie Goulet, UDI senator from Orne who recently published a report on foreign financing, the priority should be to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams and to establish a foundation to centralize Islam’s financing in France.

Le Monde: Foreign countries are often criticized for their influence on Islam in France. Is it true?

Nathalie Goulet: The influence of certain countries came as a great surprise to many when our report was published. But it’s not always those that we think that have the greatest presence. The Gulf countries are much less influential than the ‘countries of origin,’ Algeria, Morocco, and Turkey. These three states exercise a real influence by financing the construction of buildings and schools, imam training, and supplying imams for France’s mosques—who are paid by their countries of origin—and through the governance of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

Le Monde: Manuel Valls said he was in favor of a temporary suspension of financing from foreign countries. Do you agree?

Goulet: The Prime Minister speaks of suspending foreign financing, but who will be their replacements? While one could hope that there would be no more foreign financing, it would be a mistake to think that the problem could be solved just like that. The question of foreign financing is ancillary. The Louvre or the Arab World Institute also receive foreign funding, in a transparent manner. Before anything, we must work to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams who are trained in Morocco.

Le Monde: According to the report there are 301 imams sent from other countries for around 2,500 places of worship. Where is the problem?

There are 301 opportunities, for French citizens of Muslim faith, to assist with sermons led by imams who are not French and from foreign countries. It’s more problematic than foreign funding of mosques. Imams sent from Turkey, for example, arrive under the title of “social workers” and not as imams. They barely speak French, have never seen an Armenian in their life, and don’t know that in France we recognize the Armenian Genocide. The majority of supplied imams have never received an education on the Holocaust, the death penalty, homophobia…they don’t know these important contextual references, but they play a role in communities.

Le Monde: Why is the question of financing critical?

Goulet: We consider Islam to be a religion like any other, but we don’t provide it with the means to be. Islam is a recent religion in our territory. There is a need for catch-up compared to other religions. The Muslim communities need structure, schools, mosques, and associations. Muslims need to be able to practice their religion decently.

Today, if a 14 year-old girl wants to wear the veil, she is going to find an Islamic school, but there are few. A Jewish child who wants to keep Kosher and wear a kippa will find a Jewish school. The tensions are more pronounced in Muslim communities because they don’t have all the tools to practice their religion.

Le Monde: What are the paths for financing Islam in France? What do you think about the idea of re-launching a ‘foundation of French Islam’ discussed by Manuel Valls?

Goulet: We must revive the Foundation for Islamic Works to monitor foreign funds. This foundation must have a joint government with a representative from the State Council and an accountant from the Treasury. We must also implement cost accounting so that Algerian money is used for Algerian places of worship, money from Morocco is used for Moroccan places of worship…it’s necessary if we want the communities to agree to this foundation. Algerians don’t want to pay for Turks, and vice versa, even if the idea of an Algerian place of worship makes no sense in France.

Le Monde: Julien Dray, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Francois Bayrou support instituting a “halal tax” to finance Islam in France.

Goulet: Legally, it’s impossible to institute a tax on a religious item…and technically, a ‘halal tax’ would also be impossible to institute in practice, because there is no consensus on the notion of halal.

What could be possible is that religious representatives themselves institute a private fee for services relating to slaughter, which would be set by the community, collected, and sent to the Foundation.

Le Monde: Aside from financing, is there a representation problem?

Goulet: Establishing the CFCM was necessary, there needs to be an interlocutor with the State. But throughout the years, this body has never succeeded in being representative. If I was president of the CFCM, I would open up a debate, I would establish constituent assembly to review the statutes, I would call on youths and members of associations, who may feel excluded, I would institute the principle of one man, one woman, one vote…But that must come from Muslims themselves. Maybe one day, young Muslims will launch an online petition and create a concurrent association.

 

 

 

 

German Islamic associations and their mosques between political demands and institutional deadlock

The role for mosques after recent attacks

The German government’s Commissioner for Migration, Aydan Özoğuz (SPD), has called on the country’s mosques to be more proactive in preventing radicalisation among young Muslims. Mosques could make an important contribution to signalling the presence of extremist, or so Özoğuz argued.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/oezuguz-moscheevereine-101.html))

Her intervention comes after Germany has been shaken by two ISIS-linked attacks – the first ones on its territory – in late July: first, a 17-year old Afghan refugee injured several people by assaulting them on a train with a knife and an axe; subsequently, a Syrian man killed himself without injuring others in a suicide-style attack outside a music festival. In both cases, video material and pledges of allegiance were released by the Islamic State’s Amaq news agency.

The political debate surrounding DITIB and its mosques

Even prior to these attacks, however, the political debate surrounding German mosques and their position in de-radicalisation efforts had become more and more heated. For decades, national politicians and local authorities had been happy to delegate responsibility for the religious needs of the large and predominantly Turkish Muslim population to DITIB, an offshoot of the Turkish Presidency for Religious Affairs (Diyanet).

With recent diplomatic and political woes between Germany and Turkey on the rise, however, the old reliance on DITIB now appears problematic, with DITIB seen as a potential Trojan horse under the command of President Erdoğan. Numerous German politicians have voiced fears that the Turkish government could use DITIB’s close to 1000 imams to advance its own agenda and thereby influence Turkish-German Muslims, inducing them not only to favour Erdoğan’s authoritarian policies but also what his increasingly conservative stance on religious matters.

Leading Green Party politician Cem Özdemir, for instance, has lauded the social and welfare activism of individual members of DITIB mosques but denounced DITIB and its Imams as “a prolonged arm of the Turkish state”. The Social Democratic mayor the Neukölln district in Berlin, an area often in the spotlight in public debates on issues of integration has voiced her unease about “foreign-directed mosque associations” and criticised Imams who “are not formed according to the German understanding of fundamental values and have not grown up here”.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/islam-in-deutschland-predigen-aus-der-tuerkei-entsandte-imame-1.2963893))

Unresolved questions about the institutional position of Islam

These issues touch upon a raw nerve in ongoing debates about the institutionalisation of Islam in the German constitutional-legal framework. While the German Basic Law allows religious communities to exercise wide ranging prerogatives (including the right to oversee religious instruction in state schools, as well as the right to control the training of religious practitioners), in the case of the Muslim communities in the country, this institutionalisation process has been dogged by numerous political and procedural difficulties. Consequently, the (Sunni) Muslim religious infrastructure in the country is still comparatively weak, in spite of the progress of recent years.

Yet in the current political and security climate, a growing number of demands is placed on this underdeveloped infrastructure: Muslim associations are asked to develop a ‘liberal Islam’ or a ‘state Islam’, compatible with the Basic Law and German values.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/03/01/a-peoples-islam-volksislam-as-an-enrichment-breaking-linguistic-taboos-in-the-german-political-debate/)) They are, in Özoğuz’s words, tasked with detecting and combating radicalisation. And they are, ultimately, supposed to become fora in which a positive, meaningful and theologically sophisticated Muslim spirituality is elaborated and allowed to grow.((http://dtj-online.de/islam-versus-dschihadismus-wir-machen-propaganda-fuer-den-is-77574))

Vicious cycle of mistrust and underdevelopment

These abstract exhortations do not, however, necessarily translate into real progress. To be sure, at the local level, especially where conditions are favourable and financing available, there are many initiatives that bring together administrations, civil society broadly conceived, and Muslim communities.

However, at the national level and in larger political discourse, no viable path forward has been offered: On the one hand, large Muslim associations and their mosques have been treated with ongoing suspicion and thus remained shut out of existing political, fiscal, and legal frameworks. On the other hand, the fact that that they remain outside of these frameworks reinforces their ‘otherness’, which justifies their continued marginalisation: Because they are not ‘insiders’ of the German scene, they continue to depend e.g. on foreign financing (for instance from the Turkish state).

Thus, mistrust invites marginalisation, and marginalisation invites mistrust. If Aydan Özoğuz’s demand that mosques and Muslim communities play a greater role in the prevention of radicalisation is to be taken seriously, then this vicious cycle needs to be broken. Calling upon mosques and communities to develop answers to pressing questions is right and important, yet they must also be structurally enabled to deliver these answers.

Senators critique an ‘Islam of France’ under foreign influence

The Senate report is concerned with France’s dependence on Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, and Tunisia for certain religious affairs. It lists the domains where their influence remains strong: financing mosques, providing and sending imams overseas to France, and determining the structure of the Islamic federations. However, according to the figures provided in the report, the funds from foreign countries are less than we might think: six  million each year from Morocco and no more than 4 million from Saudi Arabia.

The report argues that the resources exist in France, notably from donations from worshippers. “An imam confirmed…that zakat received during Ramadan increased more than 1 million,” said senator Nathalie Goulet. The report is not opposed to foreign funding but rather hopes to increase transparency. To do that the senators hope to relaunch the Foundation for Islam in France, created in the mid 2000s but never truly inaugurated. It would collect and redistribute funds.

July 6, 2016

Source: http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2016/07/06/01016-201607-en-france-un-rapport-denonce-l-ambiguite-de-l-etat.php

 

 

The “hawala” a method of financing terrorism moves 300 million Euros in Spain

April 4, 2014

 

The ‘ hawala ‘ is an opaque and easy way to send money to any corner of the world. A system that can move 100,000 USD per day and is based on the relationship of trust between the partners in the chain of money delivery. Confidentiality and opacity have made it one of the methods of financing terrorist Jihadi groups. In fact, the ‘ hawala ‘ has been linked to the recruitment or movement of funds from organizations linked to Al Qaeda, such as the Al Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb.
In Spain and Portugal an organization that allegedly laundered funds for this transfer system was dismantled resulting in at least 18 detainees linked to an organization that allegedly provided services to drug traffickers.

 

La informacion: http://noticias.lainformacion.com/policia-y-justicia/narcotrafico/detenidas-18-personas-de-una-organizacion-que-blanqueaba-dinero-de-otras-redes-criminales-con-metodo-hawala_8rgbrocLCshl7OjavOk9F5/

http://noticias.lainformacion.com/policia-y-justicia/terrorismo/el-hawala-que-mueve-300-millones-en-espana-una-forma-de-financiar-el-terrorismo_Ejl198nENXuetUwnjoshw4/

A Mosque in the Darsena neighborhood? Local Official Says Yes

January 8, 2014

 

GENOA, The Mayor of Genoa, Marco Doria said “yes” to the construction of the Mosque in the neighborhood of Darsena in Genoa.

The mayor explained in a letter to the president of European Muslims.

The letter came after the League of European Muslims had expressed its readiness to buy a building in Darsena, to make it a great European center of Islamic culture and a space dedicated to prayer.

The Mayor’s commitment is crucial because the Islamic Development Bank could begin financing the project with the cost of 12 million Euros.

The letter explained that the mayor and the “municipal authorities have no objection to the fact that this important initiative will be brought to the attention of the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia.”

 

Liguria Notizia: http://www.ligurianotizie.it/costruzione-moschea-darsena-doria-dice-si/2014/01/11/112997/

A Mosque in Reykjavík “Threatens” Icelandic Culture

10 July 2013

 

Former mayor of Reykjavík claims a mosque will threaten Iceland’s culture and safety. Ólafur F. Magnússon, who was mayor for little less than 7 months in 2008, is highly pessimistic about plans of a mosque being built in the open space of in the eastern part of Reykjavík.
City council approved of the plans last week, after Muslims in Iceland having waited 13 years to get a property to raise the first mosque in Iceland. Ólafur writes in Morgunblaðið today, expressing his concern about the matter.
“It is worrying that Muslims here don’t seem to have any difficulties financing the project, receiving aid from Muslim organizations abroad. Those organizations might want to increase the influence of Islam in Iceland, as well as in other countries.”
Instead of a mosque, Ólafur suggests a temple of the Nordic gods to be built in the plot. “Such a cultural gem would bring joy to the majority of the city’s residents, as well as other Icelanders, and wouldn’t be as out of place as a mosque would.”

Competency exam, hearing set for Florida imam in Pakistani Taliban terror financing case

MIAMI — A mental competency examination has been ordered in the case of a Muslim imam in South Florida accused of raising money for the Pakistani Taliban terror group.

 

A federal judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation of 77-year-old Hafiz Khan to take place by Aug. 31. The judge wants to decide if Khan is able to understand his legal proceedings and if he can assist in his own defense.

 

Khan and one of his sons are charged with providing material support to terrorists by allegedly funneling about $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban. They have pleaded not guilty. Charges were dropped against another of Khan’s sons.

 

The case could be delayed indefinitely if the elder Khan is ruled incompetent to stand trial.